Posts Tagged ‘working from home;’

The Tea Box

In Food & Drink on February 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

In the UK we drink 2.3kg of tea per person per year (source: Euromonitor), with homeworkers drinking twice that (source: totally made up, but quite possibly true).

The UK Tea Council‘s website has, along with loads of brilliant tea facts and stats, a cupometer showing how many cups of tea have been drunk that day. The numbers spin fast. So far today it’s just past 116,400,000 and it’s only, well, tea time.

As for most people, the majority of my daily cups are straight ‘builders’ – teabag (Yorkshire Tea for Hard Water), strong, milk, one sugar – but there are times that gets a bit monotonous and I seek something a little more exotic.

So I was very excited to learn about the latest food box subscription – the tea taster box – and immediately blagged one from the nice people at Tea Horse. Read the rest of this entry »


Living la vida local

In South London on February 6, 2012 at 5:14 pm

This hyperlocal thing is getting out of hand.

In fact, I’m thinking of starting a competition to see who can go the longest without leaving their own neighbourhood*. [*And maybe a secondary competition for the best alternative to the grating americanism that is the word ‘neighbourhood’, without resorting to ‘look at me, I’ve done TEFL’ continentalisms such as ‘quartier‘ and ‘barrio‘.]

Here’s my bid: Read the rest of this entry »

Back to work day for homeworkers

In Homeworking on January 4, 2012 at 12:50 pm

Tree shredded. Cards recycled. Kids back to school. Partner back to office. Heating off. Jumpers on. Glasses on. Computer on. Wash on. Coffee drunk. Twitter checked. Facebook checked. Emails checked, then ignored. Spam checked optimistically, then deleted. Work-begging emails written. Invoice-chasing emails written. I-haven’t-had-time-to-finish-that-thing-I-thought-I’d-have-loads-of-time-to-do-over-the-Christmas-so-called-‘holidays’ emails written. Childcare swaps in the pipeline. Quick crossword done. Tax not quite done. Fridge empty. Biscuit tin empty. Celebrations tin empty. Stomach empty. Inbox still empty. Bank account empty. Appallingly-paid, takes-three-times-longer-than-you-thought commission stuck into. Blog posted.


Happy National Freelance Day!

In Homeworking on November 23, 2011 at 12:14 pm

So apparently today is National Freelance Day. To celebrate, I will be spending my time as follows:

10% ‘doing research’ on Twitter in lieu of having colleagues or other grown ups to talk to. Or my own watercooler

10% sending pitches/enquiries/spec CV

8% immediately leaping on any new emails in hope that they are replies to pitches

4% being disappointed

8% checking my ‘junk’ folder because clearly all the replies to pitches must have gone in there

4% being disappointed

1% excitedly answering phone to an unknown number assuming it must be something about work

1% discovering it’s just my daughter calling from a friend’s mobile because she’s out of credit again

2% patronising local independent traders (esp ones that sell really good coffee) in a spirit of self-employed camaraderie

2% thinking ‘I know, I could work in/open a shop’, then talking to independent traders who tell you it’s the quietest time in retail FOR A GENERATION

5% half-heartedly doing bare minimum housework/childcare by default

5% staring. Just staring

6% chasing invoices

7% worrying about money

7% worrying about future

7% wondering why the Hell I thought ‘going freelance’ would be a good idea

3% making tea

1% eating ham from the packet from the fridge plus any random leftovers I can find for lunch

1% going back to the jumper draw to put on another layer to keep warm

3% wondering if it’s too early to start drinking

5% crying


So, much like any other freelance day, then.

The Apple Genius Bar, and other people I couldn’t live without as a freelance

In Homeworking on November 1, 2011 at 12:37 pm

For the third time in the past 12 months, the Apple Genius Bar (Covent Garden branch) has saved my ass.

One of the disadvantages of giving up working in an office for working at home is no more tech support. No grumpy men (and occasionally woman) to ring up just because you can’t get into your email, you’ve spilled something on your keyboard or you’ve accidentally deleted a really important file. (One company I’ve freelanced for hilariously and inaccurately calls it the ‘Zen Desk’.) No one who’ll come and put missing fonts on your computer for you while you go and make a cup of tea (even though you probably could have done it yourself if they’d only show you how). And no one to pick up the pieces when your hard drive melts, your CD drive fails or you smash your iPhone screen – all of which… Read the rest of this entry »

Tips for working mums (or those who want to be)

In Jobseeking on March 8, 2011 at 11:13 pm

Actually, I should just clarify that headline. When I say ‘Tips for working mums or those who want to be’ the tips will be for those who are already mums but who want more work, not those in work who want… That wouldn’t be appropriate. Read the rest of this entry »

#60 Stop this East Dulwich cafe madness!

In Food & Drink, Homeworking, South London on November 3, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Just when you thought SE22 couldn’t possibly support any more cafes-cum-artisanal-bread-shops-cum-cupcake-outlets, along come even more. Read the rest of this entry »

#49 Dreaming of Soho, sandwiches and a really good cup of coffee

In Homeworking, Jobseeking on June 18, 2010 at 10:40 am

So it’s now finally official, I didn’t get that job. But before I cave in to disappointment, I thought I’d pause one last time to indulge the fantasy I’d created about what it would be like to be back working in an office…

The fantasy basically involves me meandering up through Soho in the morning, perhaps pausing to indulge in a really good shop-bought takeaway coffee, full strength, ground on the premises, and with that pleasing crema it’s impossible to replicate at home. Read the rest of this entry »

#45 What’s the best day of the week?

In Homeworking on May 10, 2010 at 12:11 pm

A couple of weeks ago I unexpectedly bumped into a friend casually wandering the neighbourhood on a weekday, when one would have expected them to be shaved and behind a desk. A much deserved promotion to a high-profile role on a Sunday has meant a 24 hour time shift in their week – they work till all hours on Saturdays, but get  Monday off.

It’s a sign of how blasé I’ve become about my own working pattern, which allows me to adjust my local wandering to the weather and the opening times of cake shops, that my initial reactions was – ‘What a shame you get Monday off, Thursdays are so much more fun.’

Quite rightly my high-flying friend pointed out unbounded joy he was experiencing at having any weekday to himself, that if you have children, and even if you don’t, the weekend is no place for rest and relaxation. While us homeworking layabouts might take for granted having the place to ourselves during the week, those committed to an office move from weekday hubbub to weekend mayhem. A Monday off means the luxury of silence.

So from the privileged perspective of those who see the world every day and are around to bear witness to the nuances and subtle variations, what is the best day to have off?

Monday? My own prejudice against Monday is that you end up starting the week a day behind everyone else, there’s no one to play with because everyone is serious again, and the butcher and fishmonger are both closed, along with lots of smaller museums and galleries (but not the big ones any more).

Tuesday? A good nondescript sort of day. Too early in the week for anyone to be persuaded to have lunch with you though. And usually dominated by after school clubs and classes.

Wednesday? The last place I worked had a farmers’ market outside the Tube station on Wednesday’s and Fridays, with a stall selling what has since been voted (by TIme Out) the best coffee in London. A good reason to go to work on Wednesdays. Plus I’ve also noticed that some shops (and the public library) in more suburban areas still uphold the arcane tradition of a half day on Wednesdays, which is rather inconvenient.

Thursday? From the point of view of  finishing projects, submitting reports, applying for jobs, ‘end of the week’ deadlines, etc, a terrible day to have off. But in terms of the world outside work, the party is just beginning.

Friday? Surely the king of days off? Sleep of the  hangover from Thursday night, and steal a march on everyone else by being incredibly well prepared for the weekend. Local markets and weekend festivals get going on Fridays, and you can get out of town before the rush.

Saturday? An absolutely rubbish day off. In fact, there’s no ‘day off’ about it. The busiest day of the week, filled with swimming lessons,shopping, housework, washing, and lots of other tedious chores. There’s no lie in, no rest, only a G&T and Doctor Who to look forward to at the end of the day. With no party invites or all night raves to go to these days, most Saturday nights are spent in front of a computer anyway.

Sunday? On the plus side, everything is now open on Sundays. On the minus side, town is therefore packed. There’s also a subconscious obligation to do something bonding with friends and/or family, or carry out DIY, so you just feel guilty that you don’t. Much better to have work as an excuse.

#42 A year of living frugally

In Homeworking, Jobseeking on April 26, 2010 at 10:29 am

It was this time last year that I realised that I was unemployed. My last book (The World’s Greatest Cities, since you ask) had finally gone to press after a full on couple of months, and the other small writing jobs had been filed. It is a common experience for the freelance to come to the end of bouts of intense work and realise that you haven’t had time to line the next things up. But in the past, something had always turned up. Not this time.

As is standard practice, I dropped a line to all my contacts letting them know I was free, pitched a few ideas, applied for some jobs. But nothing. Then more pitching and applying. More nothing. And so on… Let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

A year on and I can talk it all up as a ‘learning experience’. I’ve used the time to trim budgets, making us a leaner fitter household not weighed down by too many  financial commitments allowing us all to keep our options open. I finally embarked on a printmaking course at one of our wonderful adult education colleges that the Tories will probably kill off (Morley College), and felt the thrill of learning new things again.

I’ve toured secondary schools exhaustively and been heartened by the improving standards of the state system, despite received opinion otherwise. I’ve subsequently got my daughter into a local school that’s just been judged ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted (from being a no-go zone a decade ago) without even having to temporarily rent a house in the catchment area, fake a separation from my husband, or pretend I go to church.

I’ve realised that I don’t actually miss those interminable meetings that seem to take up 50% of office life – it’s a relief to be able just to get on and do stuff. I’ve been to careers workshops, sent my details round agencies and signed up for every jobs websites. I’ve realised that filling in job applications and looking for work is even harder than a full-time job – at least with a job you get holidays. I’ve done some really dull stuff for the money which has freed up time to do some really interesting stuff for none. I’ve taken heart from all the entrepreneurial things I’ve seen my friends doing and stopped thinking the world owes me a living.

I’ve gone from being antisocially miserable to artificially chirpy, reasoning that sitting around feeling sorry for myself isn’t going to solve anything. Most importantly, I’ve come to terms with the fact that my career has hit the buffers and needs to follow a different track, but found that the change of scenery is actually quite pleasant.

I’ve talked to lots of other people who are at different points on the same journey: some still at the stage of despairing that there doesn’t seem to be anything out there, others well ahead of me and now enjoying hard-won success after a period of gloom. Some contemplating that leap into the unknown (go on, jump!).

The past 12 months have been bloody hard work, and will continue thus, but that’s how it should be. Friends, family and former colleagues have been incredibly supportive (thank you!) and even put some work my way (thank you again!). Though my earnings for the last tax year have been pitiful, almost half came in the first three months of this year, which I hope means things are picking up for all of us.

My next book – writing this time, not editing! – is due to be filed at the end of May; another proposal is with an agent. And I’m so busy for the next month I’m even going to have to get some temporary childcare.